Before I was a mother, in fact, before I was pregnant, I knew that there were some things from which I would always want to protect my child: bullies, fire, zombies, the belief that Dane Cook is funny, and so forth. Intellectually, I understand that it is not healthy to attempt to protect your child from ever feeling sad. As long as they are able, children need to experience a full range of human emotion.
But really, this is probably what frightens me the most about being a mother.
I used to think that after having a baby I would no longer tolerate police dramas involving child victims. Indeed, these shows are difficult, but really what scares me the most is not that The Lad will be kidnapped and sold into the Swiss mafia’s chocolate sweatshops as slave labor (and other things too terrible to mention in this post) but rather, that no one will come to his birthday party. I used to worry about how I would handle when Henry the Pug dies. Now, I have to worry about–not only my own reaction–but The Lad’s as well. Ultimately, however, these things are character building and, if handled properly, foster compassion and empathy.
But is it okay to protect children from The Saddest Thing in the World?
As I sit here sipping my Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee I am reminded of a conversation that I once had back in Atlanta. I spent a lot of time in Dunkin Donuts back then. It was the closest coffee shop with WiFi and I very rarely had to join in a debate about the French New Wave or identity politics. Instead I saw a lot of families, few of whom stayed longer than the time it took to get a donut or an ice-cream from Baskin Robbins. On this particular day, however, a father and his two young daughters got their ice-cream cones and decided to stay and eat them. They also decided to sit right next to me. The father warned, “Be careful not to drop your ice-cream. Because there is nothing sadder in the world than a scoop of ice-cream falling off the cone and on to the ground.” I stopped typing and said, “You are so correct.”
It was then that I decided that I would do my best to protect my child from this–the Saddest Thing in the World. It would be unfair to prohibit ice-cream cones (even though I personally avoid them, except when eating a DQ dipped cone) so I have decided that I will always get whatever The Lad is getting so that if by chance he loses his scoop, I can share mine with him. I really hope he doesn’t like chocolate based ice-cream flavors. My husband thinks I’m nuts.
Have you ever seen The Simpsons episode, “Lisa on Ice”? There is a flashback sequence in which Bart and Lisa remember growing up together and one memory involves Bart replacing Lisa’s dropped ice-cream scoop with one of his own. Yes, there are a lot of things in this world that make me cry and that is one of them. But it also makes me think that there is more to be gained from sharing my ice-cream than simply protecting him from the loss of his own.